Updated December 15, 2011
Gulnaz, the Afghan woman jailed for adultery after a relative raped her was freed on Tuesday, her lawyer has told the BBC.
Kimberley Motley, Gulnaz’s lawyer, announced that her client was released without precondition, and was healthy and happy to be released.
From the BBC:
Ms Motley said that Gulnaz is now staying in an undisclosed location in Kabul with her child after being released overnight on Tuesday “for her own safety away from the blaze of publicity”.
Updated December 2, 2011
Three weeks ago I wrote here about Gulnaz, a 19-year-old Afghan woman who was raped by her cousin’s husband, then charged with adultery and finally sentenced to 12 years in prison. Her baby girl, born following the rape, is serving her sentence with her.
The European Union commissioned Development Pictures to produce a documentary highlighting women’s rights issues in Afghanistan, but subsequently suppressed it for political reasons. The documentary tells Gulnaz’s story.
Gulnaz To Be Freed
At first the news broke that Gulnaz would be freed, but only if she agreed to marry her rapist.
But today the BBC reports that Gulnaz does not have to marry her attacker to be freed, according to her lawyer.
Lawyer Kimberly Motley says this was clarified personally to her by President Hamid Karzai’s office.
Mr Karzai pardoned the woman, named as Gulnaz, earlier this week, but some reports had said this was on condition that she married her attacker.
On Friday, Ms Kimberly said that 21-year-old Gulnaz would be released with no pre-conditions and would then be free to marry whomever she chooses.
“She doesn’t have plans for the future, she just wants to get out [of prison],” the lawyer said.
The Afghan President got involved in the case of Gulnaz when the decision not to broadcast the film led to a storm of publicity, including a Care2 petition with over 90,000 signatures.
Today’s announcement seems to bode well for Gulnaz, but her story is brutal:
“He Had Filthy Clothes On…He Shut Me Up By Putting His Hands On My Mouth”
Even two years later, Gulnaz remembers the smell and state of her rapist’s clothes when he came into the house when her mother left for a brief visit to the hospital.
“He had filthy clothes on as he does metal and construction work. When my mother went out, he came into my house and he closed doors and windows. I started screaming, but he shut me up by putting his hands on my mouth,” she said.
After the attack, she hid what happened as long as she could. But soon she began vomiting in the mornings and showing signs of pregnancy. It was her attacker’s child.
In Afghanistan, this brought her not sympathy, but prosecution. Aged just 19, she was found guilty by the courts of sex outside of marriage — adultery — and sentenced to twelve years in jail.
So we welcome today’s news, but the fact remains that women in her situation are often killed for the shame their ordeal has brought the community. She is at risk, some say, from her attacker’s family. And her case is common to many women in Afghanistan.
Gulnaz Faced A Stark Choice
Under Afghan law, Gulnaz has been judged an adulterer. Despite the ongoing dispute over her story, that has not changed. So it’s great that this 21-year-old woman has been released on the orders of President Karzai, but let’s hope that her case serves to throw a light on the situation of Afghan women, who are so often deprived of basic human rights.
Half of Afghanistan’s women prisoners are inmates for “zina” or moral crimes.
If you haven’t taken action, please sign our petition demanding justice for the women of Afghanistan.
Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB